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Sanborn receives prestigious Ed Block Courage Award

Virginia Halas McCaskey and Jack Sanborn
Virginia Halas McCaskey and Jack Sanborn

Linebacker Jack Sanborn was honored as the Bears' recipient of the 2023 Ed Block Courage Award Tuesday by Maryville Academy at Manzo's Banquets in Des Plaines.

The Bears were also represented at the luncheon by owner Virginia Halas McCaskey, chairman George H. McCaskey, vice president Patrick McCaskey and linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi. The event was emceed by radio play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak.

The prestigious awards are presented to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. The award recipients, who are voted for by their teammates, symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and they are considered community role models.

Ed Block was a long-time head athletic trainer with the Baltimore Colts who was a pioneer in his field. The foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness of the epidemic and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.

Block and his wife dedicated their lives to helping children in distress as foster parents and advisers. There are 27 Courage Houses connected with NFL teams and this is the 44th year the awards have been presented.

"It's definitely an honor," Sanborn said. "And I think especially an award voted on by your teammates—by the players—definitely holds a little more weight to it as well. They chose me to be the recipient of an award that honors the team. So, to be standing here, voted on by them, it definitely means a lot."

Sanborn has participated in community events since joining the Bears, visiting patients in children's hospitals and partnering with teammate Roschon Johnson to fulfill the Christmas wish lists of 10 kids from Big Brother Big Sister of Metropolitan Chicago by taking them shopping.

"The organization does such a great job of giving everybody an opportunity in a multitude of ways—whatever it may be—to go out into the community," Sanborn said. "And a lot of guys do a great job of giving back to the community, especially during the holiday season. I'm from here, so obviously I know what it's like, and to give back like that, I think definitely means a lot."

In 2022, Sanborn's teammates voted him the rookie winner of the Brian Piccolo Award. The honor is given annually to a Bears veteran and rookie who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of Brian Piccolo, a Bears running back who died from embryonal cell carcinoma on June 16, 1970, at the age of 26.

Sanborn signed with the Bears in 2022 as an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native excelled after becoming a starter during the middle of his rookie year. Before sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in a Week 15 loss to the Eagles, Sanborn made six straight starts and recorded 59 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks and one fumble recovery.

Sanborn rebounded from the injury to play in all 17 games with 10 starts in 2023, registering 65 tackles, one interception, seven tackles-for-loss and one sack.

While introducing Sanborn at Tuesday's sold-out luncheon, Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren recalled looking out of his office window onto the practice field last offseason when the young linebacker was doggedly rehabilitating his ankle injury.

"Every day I looked out of that window, he represented the Bears in a manner that George Halas would be proud of and would say, 'That is the kind of football player and young man that we want on this team.'" Warren said.

"He had some good days; he had some rough days. But he constantly was there. He worked through it all. He got better each and every day. And those are the kind of young men that we are blessed to be able to go to work with."

From left-right: Bears President & CEO Kevin Warren, play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak, linebacker Jack Sanborn, linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi
From left-right: Bears President & CEO Kevin Warren, play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak, linebacker Jack Sanborn, linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi

Each NFL team participating in the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation program selects a "Courage House" that supports victims of abuse, violence and neglect. The Bears' designated Courage House is Maryville Academy's Crisis Nursery in Des Plaines. Maryville is a social service agency which sponsors programs for children and families. Maryville's Crisis Nursery provides temporary emergency childcare for families in crisis.

The Ed Block Courage Award luncheon also honors the late Ed McCaskey by raising money for a fund in his name that provides high school, college and vocational scholarships to the children of Maryville. During his tenure with the Bears—first as vice president and treasurer and later as chairman and chairman emeritus—McCaskey was known for his generosity to Maryville.

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